Family, adoption services target of Gov. Lee’s proposed budget

More than $600 million were allocated for families and children’s services.
More than $600 million were allocated for families and children’s services.
Published: Feb. 7, 2023 at 11:00 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - On Monday night, Governor Bill Lee outlined his budget for the next fiscal year, and more than $600 million were allocated for families and children’s services.

“This is all part of our broader strategy to support strong Tennessee families, and we have big goals,” Lee said in his State of the State address.

Previous coverage: Gov. Lee delivers State of the State address

$190 million will be invested in the Department of Children’s Services.

Jeremy Harrell, president of the Adoption Project, said more caseworkers and pay raises would go a long way toward better care for kids.

“Caseworkers are underpaid,” Harrell said. “They have been for 30 years.”

Additionally, the governor proposed free diapers to help mothers financially. Lee said the cost of diapers during the first two years of a baby’s life would be free for mothers on TennCare.

“Even being able to provide diapers, and things like that through TennCare, that does help families,” Harrell said.

Senator Ferrell Hale recently introduced several family-oriented bills into the General Assembly, such as speeding up the adoption process and removing sales tax for wipes, baby formula and diapers.

Along with Hale, Lee proposed a new $10 million grant that would help foster and adoption agencies.

All of these proposals, Harrell said, are steps in the right direction.

“I do think that we ultimately, as a state, will be able to make some pretty significant changes that benefit kids,” he said.

However, Democratic representative Karen Camper said the governor can do more to fix the crisis at DCS. Camper said foster families and case workers are bearing the burden of a state government that has failed children.

The budget must go through the General Assembly before it gets approved.